Captain Felipe Contepomi’s boot was the difference as Argentina beat Italy 22-14 in a uninspiring encounter in Turin.
Both side’s kickers wasted early opportunities in a first half which was highlighted by numerous blasts of referee Chris White’s whistle as the two packs fought for supremacy.
White had his hands full at scrum time as both teams failed to gain any ascendancy on the Turin turf that was fast eroding under the sheer force.
Argentina finally put points on the board when Contepomi’s 25th minute penalty gave his side the lead.
Five minutes later and yet another scrum infringement gave Italy a chance to draw level and Andrea Marcato made no mistake. White had been pushed to the limit by this time and loosehead Rodrigo Roncero was given a warning as the scrums continued to crumble.
Two penalties in quick succession gave Argentina a six point lead at the end of a fairly abysmal first half.
Argentina started the stronger of the two sides in the second half and extended the lead just three minutes in through the boot of Contepomi.
From the restart, Italy looked to pick up their intensity and a cheeky drop goal from Marcato reeled the deficit back to six points.
A minute later White finally had enough and sent Roncero to the bin, but despite being a man down, Argentina were the better side.
The Pumas finally got the first try of the game when Hernandez collected his own chip kick and off-loaded to winger Rafael Carballo.
Marcato cut the lead by three but Italy required tries at this stage if they were going to get back in the contest.
The match then returned to its sloppy early blueprint as Argentina were content to see it out with their lead intact.
Contepomi added his fifth penalty with five minutes to go to extend his side’s lead to 13 points, but Italy finally gave the Turin crowd something to shout about with a consolation try on the stroke of full-time.
Italy – Try: Masi. Pens: Marcato (2). Drop : Marcato
Argentina – Try: Carballo. Conv: Contepomi. Pens: Contepomi (5)